Thursday, December 18, 2008
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The Vineyard of the Lord
"I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
He dug it and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes but it yielded only bad fruit . . .
What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?" (Isaiah 5:1-4).
God sang this song — a parable really — about his people through the prophet Isaiah. He told about all the care that he took to create a favorable environment for growth and how he gave it every opportunity and advantage to do well. But, even with all of God's care and concern, the vineyard did not cooperate. "What more could I have done?" he asked. "When I looked for and expected good grapes, why did it yield only bad?" It doesn't make any sense. And he asked the people in the capitol city of Jerusalem and all those in all parts of the nation of Judah to, "judge between me and my vineyard" (Isaiah 5:3). God wants to know where the problem lay. Was it with him, was the problem with God, or was it something in the vineyard itself? The answer is self-evident. God has done everything possible to guarantee success, but the people have rejected him and all that he has done.
As a result, God simply removed his protection. The result for the vineyard was imminent destruction. Unprotected, it would be trampled upon by man and beast. And once there was no more weeding or cultivation, briers and thorns would take over and it would become as if it never was. There was no longer any need for rain either so God removed that as well (see Isaiah 5:5-6). This is a parable of what it is like to live under the protection and care of the Lord, and what it is like to live without it. The one is blessing and prosperity and the other is its opposite. God says,
"The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress" (Isaiah 5:7).
The people of God, whether Israel and Judah of old, or the church following Jesus Christ, has always been the vineyard of the Lord's planting. He has dug it up, cleared it of stones and opposition, and planted choicest vines in fertile soil. He has surrounded it with everything that is necessary for its success. And he comes looking for fruit. What else would we expect a farmer to do? He is still in the same business! Nothing has changed. Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener" (John 15:1).
When he comes to our churches and when he comes to us as individual vines, what does he find? When he looks for justice, and righteousness, and holiness, and prayer, and a heart that is after him, worshipers who worship him in spirit and in truth, and much more, what does he discover? Is he pleased with what he finds? Is there a harvest of righteousness and peace (Hebrews 12:11), or bad fruit? Is there much fruit? Is there any fruit at all? God is still doing all he can for his vineyard — for you and me:
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. . . . Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. . . . This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:2, 4-5, 8).
What more could he have done for his vineyard? What more could he have done for us? He has already done everything we need and he waits to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. Is it wrong for him to expect some fruit? Not at all?
He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He prunes us so that we may bear even more fruit (John 15:2). And, as we draw near to God, he draws near to us (James 4:8). Apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). In him and in his strength is the only way to do anything (Philippians 4:13). There is truly nothing more that God could do for us than he has done and is willing to do! Believe it. Receive it. And bear much fruit! Be a vineyard pleasing to the Lord!
"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:8).